What are some key trends you have observed in the luxury hotel market across the MEA region over the last 5 years?
Over the last 5 years, the luxury landscape in the Middle East has been fast evolving. Trends such as the Arab millennials’ quests for life-affirming experiences, digital engagement through connected technology, health & wellness experiences and sustainability have been changing the very definition of luxury and this has been extending to the Hotel industry.
- Life changing experiences: Arab Millennials’ experiential lifestyle habits have driven a culture where travel experiences are more frequent and important. To appeal to this new value, luxury hotels have been developing tailor-made programs that tend to include more individualized free time for relaxation, shopping or optional excursions; the aim is to recognize that guests have different tastes and to allow them the opportunity to personalize elements of their itinerary.
- Technology: Powerful customer relationship management (CRM) software, smart televisions that allow guests to use their media accounts on their room’s TV, mobile phone applications including chatting, mobile check-in and mobile keyless access are also part of these trends.
- Health and wellness: Hotels have been revisiting their F&B elements and concepts, to match guests’ changing expectations and concerns about health, climate change and animal welfare. They have also been reviewing their spa and gym business approaches to offer distinctive wellness programs for their guests.
- Sustainability: With guests becoming increasingly sensitive to environmental and social issues, it has been critical for hotels to become more sustainable, not just green, but real sustainable.
In your opinion, what is one trend that will define the luxury hotel market in MEA in 2020? How will this compare to markets in Europe?
I believe in 2020, technology & virtual experiences will be at the core of the hotel experience both in room, before and after the trip. With regional airports and airlines now trialing the use of facial recognition technology to enable passport-less travel and biometric boarding, I think we will start to see some digital evolutions in 2020 when it comes to the process for hotel reservations, check-in and check-out. For travellers and hotel guests, convenience is key and ultimately, we are moving towards digital services that might in the future lead to less human contact.
With world-class infra-structure, facilities and advanced digital technologies, the Middle East is expected to emerge as Europe’s most competitive landscape offering value tourism and seamless travel experiences to a worldwide customer base.
What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring hoteliers looking to enter the luxury hotel market?
My advice to future hoteliers: Be yourself because people know what is genuine and appreciate dealing with the real you. Always remember to give back. How? By developing leaders of the future, that will be your legacy. Celebrate failures (yours and others) and learn from them. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!